Some of the familiarity came from the sprinkling of English that invariably appeared in advertising, signs and business names to add an international point of view. There was more to be found in shops that mixed locally designed and manufactured products with those from around the world. Cell phones and electronics also provided a connection that reminded me that, with all of our differences, people the world over share many preferences.
In Chiang Mai, Thailand my host, Chet Hocharoen of the Thai Trade Center Department of Export Promotion in Chicago, guided me through a district filled with home décor shops. Most featured products designed and made in Thailand. It was interesting to notice how many of the items in those shops I could recognize from international trade fairs in the U.S., Frankfurt and Paris—shows with international buyers who introduced these products to shoppers around the world. Here is Chet in front of one of the most stylish stores on the street.
On the Metro back from Hakone National Park to Tokyo one afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice a boy about the age of our son, Alex, who is 10 years old. This Japanese boy was dressed in his school uniform and had a backpack slung over one shoulder. In his hands was a Game Boy Advance that held his full attention. Our son, equally unaware of the boy behind him, was playing the same device. I snapped this picture of the two boys, one from each culture, passing time the same way on the train.